Why Avery Bradley Could Be Defensive Player of the Year

Avery Harden

Boston’s Avery Bradley harassing Houston All Star James Harden

The results for the NBA’s 2012-2013 Defensive Player of the Year Award came out yesterday, with Memphis Grizzlies 7-footer Marc Gasol winning the award. Gasol anchored the best defense in the NBA in Memphis, but he may not be fully deserving of the award. Don’t get me wrong, Gasol is a terrific player, but look at these numbers:

7.8 rebounds per game (ranked 23rd in the NBA), 5.5 defensive rebounds per game (27th in the NBA), 1.7 blocks per game (9th in the NBA), and 1.0 steals per game (57th in the NBA).

So, based on these statistics, the BEST Defensive player in the NBA only averages 7.8 rebounds, 2.3 of which are not categorized as “defensive”?

I’d just like to point out that Paul Pierce (dead knees and all) and Philadelphia’s Evan Turner, a shooting guard, BOTH averaged more defensive rebounds than Gasol.

PAUL PIERCE AND EVAN TURNER.

Paul Pierce can’t even jump anymore.

So, clearly, the award goes to the “best” defensive player on the best defensive team in the NBA. Cool, we knew that, sort of, although Tyson Chandler last season wouldn’t exactly fit that mold, either (although he was incredibly deserving of the award). So really I’m just confused.

My point to this, however, is not to bash Gasol – a terrific overall center who plays great defense and helped lead the Grizzlies to the Playoffs by anchoring that D.

Instead, I’d like to know how Avery Bradley, the Celtics’ overlooked combo guard, only received 5 total votes (15 points and two first place votes, overall)?

2013 DPOY Ballot

A look at the voting breakdown for Defensive Player of the Year, via ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg.

On the bright side, Bradley finished tied for 14th last year (also ridiculous), and this year finished directly ahead of Tyson Chandler (last year’s winner) and Dwight Howard (winner the previous three seasons). And, as ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg points out, the award “is a big man’s award…with Gary Payton the only real exception in the past two decades.”

Bradley, however, could very well wind up with the award some time in the next few years if he can stay healthy and his play continues the way it is now. Bradley and teammate Brandon Bass often switch off on playing an opposing team’s best player (Bass more so when it’s a much larger opponent, like a Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James, for example). Despite going head-to-head with some of the most elite players in the league, Synergy Sports, a revolutionary new sports data company, determined that Bradley’s defense was tops in the league.

With their new stat “PPP” or “Points Per Possession,” Synergy took every single play and analyzed the offensive and defensive matchups. PPP basically gives you the average number of points an opponent scores every time they touch the ball, including if they are fouled and the foul results in made free throws. After compiling all their data, they found that Avery Bradley only allowed 0.697 points per possession this season, Best in the LeagueThat means when Bradley’s collective opponents get the ball, they hardly ever score and aren’t even averaging even one point for their team. It also means that Bradley plays terrific, fundamental defense without fouling, or if he does foul it’s a good one on a player with a poor free throw percentage.

To put it in perspective, the next closest player was old friend Marquis Daniels (yes, that’s a bit surprising to me, too) at 0.707 PPP. So, yeah, Avery’s pretty good.

As the game evolves and the sports writers who vote on these prestigious awards increasingly fall into the stat-geek era, maybe we’ll see Avery Bradley get more votes. I mean, really, is Serge Ibaka really deserving of the title “third best defensive player in the NBA?” Of course not. He happens to make up for what he lacks in defensive prowess in an incredible leaping ability that somehow doesn’t help him rebound (he averaged less than Gasol) but did allow him to block 246 shots this season, good for a 3.0 blocks per game average. Anyone who doesn’t see that is an idiot.

In Avery’s corner, though, is another old friend: Tony Allen. The Grizzlies starting two guard/small forward thrives on defense and earns his paycheck because of it. He’s gotten a reputation as one of the baddest dudes in the league and finished  fifth in voting this season, just behind Chicago’s Joakim Noah.

Maybe Bradley will finally get the recognition he deserves. Or maybe, like Allen and many other great defensive guards before him, he’ll just quietly harass the league for his entire career and earn the love and respect of his hometown fans.

Either way, he’s got my vote.

The Jordan Era Begins. Err, Crawford, that is.

As the dust settles on this year’s NBA Trade Deadline, there’s one thing we know for certain: the Celtics are a better team than they were yesterday.

Jordan Crawford: newest Celtic

Jordan Crawford: newest Celtic

Right around 2 pm eastern, an hour before the deadline, The Celtics swung a deal with the Washington Wizards to acquire third-year guard Jordan Crawford. In exchange for the talented young scorer, Boston sent the expiring contract of veteran C Jason Collins as well as the expiring contract of injured guard Leandro Barbosa to Washington. Rookie C Fab Melo was originally thought to be included in the trade, but Washington ultimately decided it wanted the cap space trading Crawford and acquiring Collins’ expiring contract would provide.

Crawford is in the third year of his 4 year, $5.5 million rookie contract, and will be a restricted free agent when his contract expires following the 2014 season, meaning the Celtics can match any offer another team makes and retain Crawford should they choose to do so at that time. Crawford also has a club option in 2014 for just over $3 million.

With the emergence of rookie phenom Bradley Beal in Washington at the shooting guard position, Crawford became expendable.

Disappointed with the team’s decision, Crawford had been relegated to bench duties for the past few weeks and wasn’t seeing much court time.

The former 27th overall pick has averaged 14.5 points per game in his career. This season, he is averaging 13.7 points and 3.5 assists. Crawford is most notably remembered for a monstrous 2009 dunk on LeBron James at a Nike camp that Nike reportedly didn’t want to get out. Several reporters’ tapes were confiscated, per the request of James according to people at the game. Some video did leak out though. Check it out below, right at about :34 seconds:

What does this mean for the Celtics?

Well, Crawford is a terrific scorer whose talent allows him to score in bunches, nearly at will. He’s shot 43% from the field this season and provides excellent depth for the Celtics bench, as well as at the guard position where they were a bit depleted following torn ACLs for both starting point guard Rajon Rondo and Barbosa. He’s also a cheap, team controlled, young scoring guard who is a nice piece for any rebuilding efforts the Celtics make, as well as a nice contributor for this team as they attempt to make another deep playoff run.

With Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee the starting guards, you have to think Crawford’s duties will be on the second team with Jason Terry. If Crawford excels and impresses coach Doc Rivers, he’ll earn more playing time. For now though I can’t see him getting an overwhelming share of the minutes. He’s nice depth, especially if anyone gets into foul trouble or injured, but this trade probably opens up more playing time for someone else…

Let the Fab Melo Era Begin!

Okay, so maybe I like this guy way more than I should, but Fab Melo has the raw potential to be the future defensive face

Fab Melo: Shot-Blocking Machine

Fab Melo: Shot-Blocking Machine

of this franchise. He isn’t terrible offensively, and has terrific defensive instincts. The guy is a legitimate 7-footer who looks more imposing on the court than anyone else when he’s out there. He’s listed at 7′ even, but I’d give him a few inches, for sure. He also set an NBA D-League Record with 14 blocks in a game, which ohbytheway he recorded a triple-double in. Then, in his next game, he had 32 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 blocks – something only 3 players ever accomplished at the NBA level. He’s averaging 11 points, 6.8 rebounds, and an astounding 3.4 blocks per game.

The point in this Melo gushing? He will very likely slide into the minutes left open by Collins, something that can only make him a better player under Kevin Garnett’s tutelage. Am I excited? HAH. What an understatement.

Of course, this could be a preemptive strike to signing a veteran forward like Kenyon Martin, essentially an older version of Josh Smith, who is rumored to be drawing interest from Miami after they traded reserve C Dexter Pittman to Memphis.

You decide: Was this a good trade for the Celtics? Vote below!